Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Canada "easy" on sex offenders

More needed to protect children from sex offenders; 'We need to have some mechanism in Canada where we're not forced to wait for the next victim, but we can keep these guys past their warranted expiry dates'

Posted 1 day ago

At least two prominent Canadian victims' rights advocates agree better safeguards are needed to keep repeat sexual offenders like Owen Sound native Philip Publuske away from potential victims.

"What does it take? How many children have to be harmed?" Heidi Illingworth, executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, asked after being told Publuske is out of jail despite being convicted five times in the last seven years of sex crimes involving children.

"Generally, sex offenders are the biggest recidivists and (child pornographers) are very prolific offenders."

Publuske was released Monday from the Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton after serving his most recent sentence for possession of child pornography. He was convicted of that offence in July 2007 after being arrested earlier that month at his home in Cambridge.

Police have warned he poses a risk to re-offend, but Illingworth said they are often powerless to do anything but warn the public.

"They're very limited in what they can do beyond that," she said. "We need to have some mechanism in Canada where we're not forced to wait for the next victim, but we can keep these guys past their warranted expiry dates.

Let's not just kick them out of prison and see who he hurts next."

Publuske's most recent sentence is the latest entry on a rap sheet filled with offences against children:

ø In February 2000, Publuske received 18 months in jail and three years of probation after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation. The charges involved oral and anal assaults on three young boys he met through a youth program in Owen Sound. Other charges, including possession of child pornography, were withdrawn in exchange for guilty pleas to the three offences.

ø In July 2003, Publuske was convicted of possessing child pornography. Police found 137 still images at his Kitchener home in March of that year, while he was still on probation for his previous convictions. He received six months in jail and two more years of probation despite telling the court how "deeply ashamed" he was of his crime.

ø Another child pornography charge from July 2004 was dismissed after a judge ruled Publuske's rights had been violated by police who searched his Kitchener home and found child porn on his computer. They initially arrested him for breaching his probation by failing to keep appointments with his probation officer.

"I'm not sure they (probation orders) do an awful lot of good," said Gary Rosenfeldt, the executive director of Victims of Violence. "Some of these people molest kids on the way to see their probation officers, so what do you do?"

Rosenfeldt and his wife Sharon helped to found Victims of Violence after their son Daryn was murdered by notorious serial killer Clifford Olson.

Rosenfeldt says he believes pedophiles like Publuske cannot be treated and should be locked away for as long as they remain threats - a lifetime, if necessary.

"It's a sexual preference. It's children that turn him on . . . and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it," he said.

"The only way to deal effectively with these people is to put them in a psychiatric centre and keep them for an indeterminate period of time. Other than that, we're going to simply put up with these people coming back on the streets."

Illingworth said there has been some success in treating pedophiles and re-integrating them into society, but it requires a very intensive support system she acknowledged doesn't and can't exist everywhere in the country.

"Letting these guys back into the community with very little supervision, that's certainly a very dangerous situation," she said. "We understand that a lot of society doesn't even support that, having an offender in the community even with that intense supervision, and when you look at it from the victims' perspective and the perspectives of the children who have been hurt, it's really difficult to want to give anybody another chance."

Both Illingworth and Rosenfeldt have high hopes for Bill C-27, legislation which would treat offenders in a way similar to "three strikes" laws do in some jurisdictions in the United States.

If the bill is passed, anyone convicted three times of violent or sexual offences and sentenced to at least two years in prison on each occasion would have to show why they should not be declared dangerous offenders, subject to indeterminate prison sentences with no possibility of parole for seven years.

But the success of any such law as it is applied to pedophiles depends on the willingness of prosecutors, judges and parole boards to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

"We have to take steps to protect our children," Rosenfeldt said. "It's recognizing by the Crown and by the courts of the reality of the situation, that there's no cure for these guys.

"They don't recognize this. They think that with a little bit of counselling, (pedophiles) can change and find older women more attractive. It doesn't work that way.

Canada has a long way to go in terms of protecting their citizens from dangerous sex offenders and pedophiles. Rosenfeldt has it right. These people are just wired wrong, and there is no way to "fix" them.

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